The plans for a politically volatile project to rebuild a downsized St. Luke’s hospital in the Mission district were unveiled Saturday as one of The City’s biggest health care providers consolidates its facilities.
California Pacific Medical Center will present the plans and an environmental impact report to the public this week in hopes of building a seismically safe hospital that caters to San Francisco’s southeast side. The project could go before the Planning Commission by late summer.
The medical center has already revealed its ambitious plan to build a 555-bed hospital with medical offices at the site of the Cathedral Hill Hotel on Van Ness Avenue. The project would consolidate medical services at several hospitals CPMC runs in The City.
At one point, the Cathedral Hill project meant all but closing St. Luke’s Hospital on Cesar Chavez, which would leave the county-run San Francisco General as the only hospital in the southeast portion of The City. St. Luke’s has always served low-income residents as a birthing center and emergency room, but faced financial difficulties in recent years because a majority of its 229 beds remained empty.
“Patient volume was so low that it didn’t make sense to rebuild a hospital,” said Geoffrey Nelson, director of Enterprise Development for CPMC. “That plan went over like a lead balloon.”
Opponents of the closure cited the loss of union jobs and the decrease in health care to underserved neighborhoods. In a swell of support from politicians and the recommendations of a blue ribbon panel, St. Luke’s will now be rebuilt with almost one-third of the beds.
The new hospital will remain a place for low-income patients to receive care, but it will also appeal to a growing number of professionals in the area, said Chief Administrative Officer Dionne Miller on Saturday.
“We couldn’t survive without appealing to the changing population of the Mission district and surrounding neighborhoods,” Miller said.
Now, the surrounding community will have a chance to give its opinions on the project, with construction expected to affect the residential neighborhood for at least five years. The new hospital will be built on an adjacent hospital parking lot, while the current hospital will remain open.
By the numbers
229: Hospital beds at current St. Luke’s
50-55: Average patient count
80: Hospital beds at replacement St. Luke’s
2014: Projected completion date of St. Luke’s
$2.5 billion: Cost of CPMC Cathedral Hill and St. Luke’s
6,600: People employed by CPMC
Source: California Pacific Medical Center